Insidious wasp gets ahead by tunneling through host's head

"So, it looks like the specific objective of the manipulation is to help the crypt-keeper wasps emerge, because they are weaker excavators than their hosts", says Kelly Weinersmith, parasitologist at Rice University in Houston, to Live Science. The research team led by Dr. Scott P. Egan of Rice University published their discovery in the open access journal ZooKeys. This situation involves a parasite which is manipulated by another parasite. He says that based on the biology of the crypt-keeper wasp, they named it after the ancient Egyptian god Seth, which is the god of evil and chaos and is said to have killed its brother.

Rice researchers said the wasp is a rare example of hypermanipulation, or hyperparasitism, in which one parasite is manipulated by another parasite. When he was analyzing them alongside Kelly Weinersmith, a parasitologist at the Rice University, they found out that not all the orange gall wasps make it out of their crypts, some of them had their heads stuck in the holes. The second, released today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, details the species' ghoulish strategy. The horror show begins when E. set gets the gall wasp to chew a hole through the swelling and push its head through, at which moment E. set comes bursting out through the gall wasp's head, leaving bits of the poor bug scattered behind in its own grave (thus, the crypt analogy). After these eggs hatch, the crypt-keeper larva carves into the other species of wasps and takes control over its mind. Once the wasps are stuck, the crypt-keepers bury through them and make their way out. To do this, they plan to CAT scan branches to view various stages of the gall wasps life in order to track how the parasites develop over time. But Scott Egan and Kelly Weinersmith of Rice University found that another wasp-a new species, much smaller than the crypt gall wasps and a lovely iridescent blue-often occupy the crypts with the B. pallida larvae.

Set trapped his good-hearted brother Osiris inside a crypt, chopping him up into small pieces and scattering them over the ancient world.

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The host, Bassettia pallida, usually matures into a crypt (the gull).

The crypt-keeper wasp is the latest species to be discovered and it is rather vicious. Since this hole is too small, the gull wasp's head remains blocked in the hole. The species has been identified all along the U.S. Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida.

The new wasps belong to a genus of 77 species approximately. As part of this study, E. set has now been found in Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana.

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